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About

Is School Necessary?


This "must watch" video (which I'll get to in a moment) comes at an opportune time for me. I've spent the summer in a bit of a cloud. You see, I've been struggling more and more with my own complicity in a system that I'm finding less and less necessary or relevant. This might come as a surprise to many who might have followed what I've been doing online for a time. I'm a professor, I educate young teachers with enthusiasm about the blessings and special calling of "a teacher". I have spent my life in schools. Still, over this summer, I've been moving towards the realization that maybe I've been wrong, maybe I just don't have the guts to call the emperor out as naked.

I've always had a streak in me that held schooling and education to account. That wondered if we could do it different. That asked we challenge our assumptions. But never have I felt so much the need to say loudly and clearly - "School is a ruse. It is unnecessary. It is a jail we damage our children with."

There I said it. Then I watched this video about a school in the Bronx MS 244 and heard Omerina Cabrerra speak up. Heard how a school, a teacher saved her. It all comes back together for me and fits. 

You see school is unnecessary but we don't have what is really necessary and so school will have to do. School will have to stay so it might save those like Omerina.  We need school until we deal properly with poverty, addiction, violence, dysfunction in our society. Life breaks kids, many bend but many do get broken. Especially in/at middle school - I've been there in the war zone as a middle school teacher. 

School really is unnecessary but we continue the ruse. It's not something changeable, it is ingrained, an ideology, like nationalism, like marriage, like religion. It is something that just is there and we step through it. Despite knowledge now available to most, despite the harm of keeping students penned/caged as animals, despite the waste of time/resources, despite the fact that students can learn themselves given how society has progressed (think the most difficult skill of reading - now with technology, students CAN learn to read without any instruction in a school).

But yet, we don't have a society ready to embrace young people, a society that truly cares and wants to invest time in their youth and embrace them for their preciousness (despite our pretense otherwise). So school must stay. For the time being it is necessary, necessary for students like Omerina, for the few who might be saved. 

I've long realized that this social calling is the objective of schools and teachers. No longer is it about the curriculum, students ARE the curriculum. Teachers are there for those that can't, who might fall out, behind. Those without voice and hope. The others, they will learn despite teachers. Thank god Omerina had a principal, a teacher, a friend there for her. For that is what is necessary, someone there - it doesn't have to be school but for now, in our cruel, our cruel rich world, school will have to do.  Or to put it another way - school is unnecessary - what is really necessary is adults who care, really care. 

Views: 532


Supporter
Comment by Daniel Kinrys on August 21, 2012 at 2:00am

Well said. I think it comes down to what one of my Education professors talked about as the tension between structure and agency. Schooling is a structure that resists change, yet we have the agency to create interventions that can reach out to those students at risk of getting "lost in the data." These interventions are, unfortunately, necessarily limited and circumscribed by the structure of schooling, and what is really needed is a re-thinking of what schooling is, does, and should look like. But until then, this may be all we have.


Supporter
Comment by Ellen Pham on September 3, 2012 at 4:40am

Good clip!

what is really needed is a re-thinking of what schooling is, does, and should look like

Well said.

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